EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Stung a week earlier by a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown in the win over the Los Angeles Rams, the Eagles took their special teams game up a notch in the days that followed.
First, the Eagles added special teams ace Bryan Braman to the core group, and his presence on the kick block team, in coverage, and in kick protection shored up some leaks.
Then the Eagles did something on Sunday that hadn't happened in the NFL since the 1991 season: They blocked an extra point, a punt, and a field goal and the plays made the difference in a hard-fought 34-29 win over the Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
"We had to make up for what happened last week," said Kamu Grugier-Hill, who blocked a Brad Wing punt late in the first half to give the Eagles the football at New York's 20-yard line. The Eagles scored a touchdown three plays later to take a 21-20 lead, erasing a 13-point deficit. "Making a difference on special teams is something we pride ourselves on. This team has been doing in the last three or four years, so going out there today and blocking kicks and helping us win, that's what the special teams are all about."
Defensive end Derek Barnett started the parade of big plays for special teams after New York took its opening possession 75 yards for a touchdown. Barnett came off the edge and blocked Aldrick Rosas' extra point attempt, which turned out, as did all the blocks, to change the game.
For Barnett, it was a matter of following the scheme to block his second kick of the season.
"I give the coaches the credit for the scheme and then all 11 of us just doing our jobs," he said. "I saw what you saw. There was an opening and I just did all I could to get to the ball."
Grugier-Hill teamed up with Braman to block Wing's punt late in the first half. The Eagles saw something during their week of film study that hinted they may have a chance to make a play on the punt team. When the opportunity presented itself, the Eagles took advantage.
And again it made a huge difference.
"They were sending the snapper away from me and they were leaving the PP (personal protector) with me one-on-one," Braman said. "When he stepped over to their left side, my right side of the snapper, I knew it was going to be pretty easy for me to be able to wall him off. Kamu was able to come free. It takes all 11 of us to make those plays."
Malcolm Jenkins then delivered the third blocked kick of the day, knocking down Rosas' 48-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter and giving the offense the football at the Philadelphia 38-yard line. A 14-play, 60-yard drive ended in a Jake Elliott field goal, his second of the day, and the final points of the game.
"Whatever it takes to win, we've done it all year," Jenkins said. "We happened to make the plays on special teams today. When you have a chance to get your hands on the ball, you don't want to miss. Fortunately, I didn't miss and we kept them off the board and scored points on the other end."
It was, then, a special day for Dave Fipp's group. The special teams unit made the difference in the victory, as it has done so many times with Fipp at the helm.
The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Giants to move to 12-2 on the season. The victory also helped the team secure a first-round bye for the playoffs.